Satire and Comic Ribaldry in a Traditional African Theatre

September 29, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

By

Shola Balogun

The interplay of satire and comic ribaldry as a specified art of the traditional Yoruba gelede theatre and its aesthetic framework within postcolonial African experience can be interrogated as a provenance to the place of folk theatre in contemporary theatre arts theory and criticism.

In the traditional Yoruba gelede theatre, hybridity of rhetorical discourses, festival songs and dances, are a subtle ruse to unveil the unwholesome policies of the state to the commoners without resorting to unrest and to reinvent the caprices of the ruling class without incurring penalty for libel.

The shifting context of this folk theatre, to an ardent observer, goes beyond telling the truth in disguise. Its engaging disposition is to place both the divided factions-the ruling class and the commoners-in the position of involvement and creative discourse for the preservation of the state. The essential aesthetic identity of this theatre is obscenity and nudity. This’erotic radical mix’ and dance are mutually complementary. They are situated within the social order as a mechanism to deconstruct the perceived lop-sided representation of the ‘sacred’ and the ‘profane’ in communal confrontation. As evident in this pre-colonial African theatre, the freedom for obscenity and nudity during the assigned period, which can be once in a year, allows every individual in the community to purge himself or herself of every symptom of bitterness and psychotic inhibition without being destructive or violent.

Conflict and extremist syndromes are copiously controlled by giving place for satirical interpretations and mockery in social expressions. The convention of traditional Yoruba gelede theatre proffers an ingenious check and balance that eliminates build-up of suicidal tendencies and terrorism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shola Balogun

Shola Balogun, playwright, poet and writer is from Yoruba, southwestern Nigeria. He received his Masters Degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, specializing in Literary and Dramatic Criticism. He was the winner of the First Educare Trust’s Olaudah Equiano Poetry Prize (2002) and the Festival of Peace Poetry Award (2005) organized by the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. He is the author of a collection of poetry, The Cornwoman of Jurare and Other Poems (2007).

His books The Wrestling of Jacob, Praying Dangerously: the Cry of Blind Bartimaeus, and Death and Suicide In Selected African Plays, are available at Amazon and select bookstores.

His play, Egue Eghae, is ready for the stage. Shola Balogun also writes stories for children. His Yoruba background and encounter at the age of 21 with the poetry of John Donne and William Shakespeare influenced his creative writing.

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